color shift

Color-Shift Films

A lot of car enthusiasts love to customize their vehicle engines, interiors and exteriors to better reflect their tastes and interests. Being a car enthusiast myself, I have owned a number of cars that I absolutely loved to drive but I haven’t always loved the paint color.

One car that will forever stick in my mind is the hideous green 1972 Mach I Mustang that I drove back in high school. I was totally embarrassed by the color until my Dad finally took pity and had it painted black with silver stripes. It didn’t matter to me that the green interior didn’t match.

Having been through a number of paint jobs over the years and experienced various problems like orange peel, paint drip and cracking, I was glad to learn that there were more options available to change both the interior and exterior of my ride.

The good news for us in the vinyl industry is that while most auto manufacturers only offer a limited range of color options, the vinyl world we live in offers a plethora of wrapping film color choices.

In fact, a relatively new option—formerly available only as a special-effects paint—is a color-changing wrap film known by names like Color-Shift, Chameleon and Flip-Flop. And it is one of the most mesmerizing effects to ever hit the vinyl industry. As you can see in the accompanying images, the film appears to have two colors that seamlessly merge into each other. And as the observer walks around the vehicle, the areas of color magically change and meld, depending on your viewing angle.

Array of Color Choices

These new color-changing films—offered by manufacturers including ORAFOL, KPMF, Mactac and Hexis—are available in a variety of color pairings, and even some dimensional wrap films such as carbon fiber. The main differences lie in the color pairings offered and the in the intensity of the color-shifting effect. Some offer a subtler, almost iridescent color change, and others present a more dramatic color-shift effect.

Regardless of your preference in colors or amount of color shift desired, I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most exciting additions to the wrap vinyl industry to date.

Now wrap installers can offer car enthusiasts, like me, the perfect dream—a beautifully wrapped car that shimmers in the night and seductively color shifts under the sun's radiant light. It's virtually guaranteed that people everywhere will Oooh and Ahhh as they move around the car trying to capture the color-changing effect from every angle.

How Does it Work?

If you've read this far, by now you're likely wondering how these films produce this extraordinary effect.  I promise there is no magic involved, despite my earlier remark. Strictly speaking, the science behind it is not much different than the paint version.

With paint, the effect is made possible by a special light-interfering pigment. A current version of this pigment is called ChromaFlair, developed by JDS Uniphase Flex Products, used in color-shift paints made by DuPont and PPG. Basically, the effect is achieved by interfering with the reflection and refraction of light from the painted object's surface. The pigment contains tiny synthetic flakes. The flakes are made of aluminum, coated with a glass-like material which is embedded in a semi-translucent chromium. The aluminum and chrome give the paint a vibrant metallic sparkle, while the glass-like coating acts like a refracting prism which changes the apparent color of the surface as the observer moves.

Vinyl color-shift films employ the same kind of idea, but the film is constructed using a multi-layered system of colors where, in most cases, the base layer is the darkest color. The color-changing effect occurs as a result of the incidence of light and your location or angle to the vinyl film.

For example, pretend for a moment that you are looking at a car wrapped with a color-changing film, like the one my company makes—ORACAL 970RA Shift Effect Cast. If the light source remains constant as you move around the vehicle, basically changing the angle of your view to the car, the light source hits a different layer/color, and like magic a different color is portrayed. Okay, I lied, maybe there is a little magic involved after all. It’s that moment when you're like, “Whooaa! Did you see what I just saw?”

Dollars and Sense

What does it cost you ask? After researching several paint companies offering chameleon paint, and comparing prices with those companies offering vinyl color-changing films, there is no shadow of a doubt that the vinyl color-changing option is not only far less expensive than paint, it protects your investment as well.

The retail costs of color-change paint options are dependent on the available range of the color-shift effect, the color desired, and the size of the vehicle being painted. On average, the paint version costs between $8,000 and $12,000.

The retail costs of the vinyl color-changing options are dependent on the type of film used, the vehicle size and the quality of wrap installation.  On average, the vinyl options retail for somewhere between $1,200 and $ 5,000, with the added benefit of protecting the longevity of the cars OEM paint job, thus maintaining its resale value over time. Those dollars make sense.

I don’t know about you, but I am seriously contemplating changing the color of my sporty ride with a sexy color-shift wrap job rather than paint. I can’t join some of my hard-core vinyl brethren and say that "paint is dead," but this film is making me seriously contemplate the concept. All kidding aside, I'm excited about this product segment, and I know that color-change films will continue to open eyes and grow in popularity.